Schalit release draws highest-ever TV ratings

Some 3.5 million people tune in to the ongoing news reports featured on major Israeli television news outlets.

Gilad Schalit first meets with IDF officers 311 (photo credit: Channel 10)
Gilad Schalit first meets with IDF officers 311
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The local media coverage of Gilad Schalit’s release Tuesday after over five years in Hamas captivity drew the highest ratings ever recorded for a single day of TV viewing, Dr. Yifat Ben Hay-Segev, CEO of the Israel Audience Research Board (IARB) told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.
According to the information collected by the IARB, which was created in 1995 to monitor Israel’s viewing habits, throughout the day Tuesday the average ratings were around 38 percent of the television-watching public, with some 3.5 million people exposed to the ongoing news reports featured on Channels 1, 2, 10 and Russian language Channel 9.
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While individual TV shows, such as the Eurovision Song Contest in the past, and the recent finale of the reality cooking show Master Chef garnered 46% to 48% of the ratings, at its peak (from 6 p.m.-7 p.m.) Tuesday’s coverage reached 47% of the overall ratings.
“It is really a record – these are figures that we have not seen before,” stated Ben Hay-Segev, adding that some 1.5 million Israeli households tuned in to watch the soldier’s homecoming.
“We have had high ratings before but we are talking about the finals of reality TV shows such as Kochav Nolad (A Star is Born), where people watched for, at the most three hours. This time, the ratings remained very high throughout the entire day,” she said.
Ben Hay-Segev said that the high volume of viewers glued to the media coverage of Schalit’s release could easily be explained by the popularity of the reality TV genre.
“Here we have story that has similar ingredients to a reality TV show,” she said.
“There are the good guys versus the bad guys, an army, a soldier and then the emotional reunion with his family.
There is also the tension, the fear and the climax that made this into a reality melodrama.”
Comparing Israel’s TV habits with those of other Western nations, Ben Hay- Segev explained that Israelis are “news obsessed” more than in most other countries, which also explains why the news coverage was sustainable from early in the morning until late at night.
“We see it almost daily here where the TV ratings for the news are incomparable to any other Western country,” she said, giving the example of President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech.
“Only 60 million Americans – not even 20% of the ratings – went to his televised speech,” said Ben Hay-Segev.
“In Israel, Channel 2 News gets close to 20% every night, and if you add to that Channel 10 and Channel 1, then you have an even higher viewership for the news. Of course we live in a very tense and unstable climate, so it is very understandable that people tune into the news,” she said, adding “after watching the news, however, people do like to escape by watching some reality show, drama or Telenovella. We need both news and drama equally.”
Asked if that explains why Tuesday’s day-long coverage of Schalit’s homecoming was so overwhelming popular, Ben Hay-Segev said “of course.
It was not pure news, it was what we call in communication’s theory ‘info-tainment,’ a combination of entertainment and information.”
“The media here is very aware of this basic core need we have, and reacts accordingly,” she said, explaining, “The special broadcasts and the combination of hard-news journalists with talents like Yair Lapid, who are more entertaining, is no doubt what sustained the continual high ratings all day long.”
The IARB was founded in February 1995 to establish a television-viewing audience measurement system in Israel. Based on the most up-to-date technology used in the world for audience measurement, the system is accepted by the Israel broadcasting and advertising community.
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